South Africans familiar with the sight of the ubiquitous shopping mall car wash are no doubt also familiar with the vast quantities of water that splash around these concerns. So too, are city municipal managers who now have car washes built on old water technology firmly in their sights.

“It’s the historic wasteful use of water that is sounding the death knell of car washes that don’t care enough about the environment to reuse water using newly-available recycling technologies,” says Len Oort of Ozone Services Industries. “Chief amongst the latter,” says Mr Oort, “Is water reclamation using chemical-free ozone-based treatments.” Mr Oort’s firm uses natural ozone instead of harmful chlorine to disinfect, deodorise and recirculate waste car wash water.

This new technology used by Ozone Specialist Industries (OSI) greatly diminishes the requirement for equipment that would need a large floor footprint and also greatly reduces electrical consumption. OSI’s ozone technology clarifies and deodorises used car wash water which is then safely stored for reuse in pressurised car wash hose systems. The ozone treatment is combined with effective oil removal so that no smear marks are left on the cars being washed. The OSI carwash system is compact and inconspicuous and can be placed on any level surface.

Several leading South African cities this month announced plans to slash potable water consumption within their metropolitan areas and car washes are a focus area. In Johannesburg, for example, tighter water restrictions will be implemented in the coming weeks to ensure the city can meet the national water department’s instruction to reduce consumption by 15 percent.

The restrictions include bans on irrigation during the day, filling up of swimming pools using municipal water and using hosepipes to wash cars. Only the use of buckets or automatic systems will be allowed at shopping centre car washes.

According to Mr Oort, OSI’s car wash water treatment system reduces water consumption at these concerns by some 90 percent. “The process is completely natural and uses a low voltage ozone generator to process and to clean car wash water of impurities such as soap and grease, ozone works 3000 times faster than chlorine and is 2.5 times stronger and leaves no harmful residual effects so the water can be recycled and/or reclaimed). Once the treatment process has been completed, the water is returned to the wash bay ready for re-use in the washing of the vehicles. Any loss in used water is replenished using stored rainwater from special storage containers before using the municipal water supply,” he explains.

Ozone has been used for decades as a well-documented safe and natural purifier for water throughout Europe and more recently in over 300 US municipal water treatment plants. Ozone, or O3, is an oxygen molecule with an extra atom of oxygen which is aggressive to organic and most chemical compounds and then reverts back to oxygen, leaving no chemical residual.